A bird does not sing because it has an answer.  It sings because it has a song.

02 March 2010

Care, Then Choose

"For as long as you know in your heart that what you’re making or doing matters, and, consequently, for as long as you accept and embrace the immutable laws of scarcity, your options for maintaining focus will, like Frank’s perfect answer ["you do one thing at a time"], remain stunningly obvious.

You “focus” on the one thing you care about, as you “unfocus” on everything else. If not for every minute of your life, at least for the time you set aside to pursue the thing that matters.

If that sounds fancy and oversimplified, then you “care” about too many things. Period."

(from Merlin Mann's post, "First, Care" on 43folders.com)

In another realm of my life, I am considering closing a small volunteer organization, of which I am currently president. My one-year term as president is about to enter year four, not because I've refused to give up my power (far from it), but because no one else seems to want the job. More specifically, only four people reliably attend meetings, and two of them just moved out of state. The other is already filling two other officer posts and has no aspirations to the proverbial throne.

When the organization began, it boasted a membership of nearly 40 enthusiastic members. Since the novelty has worn off, it has fallen off the priority list of those other members, leaving me no choice but to conclude there is either no ongoing need for the service we are offering, or that service is already provided by other organizations.

There's nothing wrong with that. By extension, there's nothing wrong with saying "no" to something that is not a priority or a passion in your life. When you are asked to join a club, donate to a cause, volunteer for a charity event, or write a letter to the Times, you can say "no," and that can be the end of the conversation. It is far better simply to say "no" once than to say "maybe" over and over again. This is what you are doing when you say "oh, I can't today," or "I'm too busy this week -- maybe next time." Rather than free yourself from something you don't love, you are letting it remain around your neck as you give that friend or colleague or organization permission to keep asking. If you say "not this time" more than three times, face it: you aren't interested and discussing it further is a waste of everyone's time.

Causes, committees, clubs and kaffeeklatsches are available to you in infinite supply. Any of them would benefit greatly from your support. All of them will not, and trying to spread yourself that thin is a great way to go broke and fall over from exhaustion. Instead, give generously of your heart, mind and pocketbook to a few causes and hobbies that speak to you on a deep level. Organizations rely most heavily on a few, a few dozen, or at most a few hundred people for whom that one thing is the most important thing in their lives. If you have the wherewithal to be one of those people for a favorite group, by all means, do so. If not, you may want to support a handful of different groups to a moderate degree, or you may want to plan to give a little bit to as many as you can, as your resources allow. Odds are, unless you have a lot more free time or discretionary cash than most people, you will have to choose one of these options. Choose your strategy carefully, in alignment with your values, your basic needs, and your other priorities.

Distractions are often disguised as opportunities. Measure each one against your personal vision and mission, and make your choices intentionally. Your health, your family, your appointment calendar, and your wallet will all thank you for it.

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